General Skills for UPSC : Part 1

Learning to Approach a Topic:

With respect to learning, an important task that we struggle with is the art of learning. As students many of us developed bad habits like cramming the night before a test or rote memorization. It is these bad habits that we need to unlearn. What worked in school with varying degrees of success may not continue to work when preparing for UPSC.

So, with the goal of unlearning in mind we need to learn to approach the topic of preparing for UPSC. The things you will need the most for preparing for UPSC will be the ability to concentrate, the ability to retain information and the ability to understand an idea at the conceptual level.

Concentration:

With respect to the ability to concentrate, what you can do as an absolute beginner is simply to follow the Pomodoro Technique. This technique was founded by a man named Francesco Cirillo. In this technique you focus on a single task for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. What this does, allow your brain to concentrate on a single task for a long period of time. In order for this technique to be successful, we must supplement this by leaving our phones on silent in a room that we are not currently occupying.

Please be forgiving of yourself initially because your brain is in the toddler stage of learning how to actively concentrate and might not be perfectly focussed on the task at hand. However, this takes a conscious effort on our part to bring our mind back to task. Initially this is okay. When you practice consistently, you will find yourself less distracted and more focused. This will enhance your ability to concentrate.

Retention:

In order to retain information for longer and longer periods of time we need to review the information frequently. In previous blogs, we’ve mentioned something known as The Forgetting Curve, proposed by H.Ebbinghaus. According to him, the theory is that humans start losing the memory of learned knowledge over time, in a matter of days or weeks, unless the learned knowledge is consciously reviewed time and again. A related concept to the forgetting curve is strength of memory, which states that the time period up to which a person can recall any memory is based on the strength of the particular memory.

So in order to retain information we need to consistently review what we studied multiple times. A way we can do this through daily and weekly reviews.

In a Daily Review, we need a journal where we make notations regarding the topics we studied during the day and then in the evening we review what we studied. If we do this at the end of the day, we will be able to both review what we studied and consolidate our memories related to the topics we studied. In addition to this, you can also attempt to write up a small test for yourself when you review to see how much you understood a topic.

In a Weekly Review, we attempt to retrieve the memory of what we study when it is the closest to being forgotten. Research has shown that by retrieving a memory when it is the closest to being forgotten actually strengthens the memory and enhances our learning of the topic. A weekly review can be done by going over the notes you made during studying and refining it in a way that includes diagrams, key words and mnemonics along with additional information that can supplement your understanding of the topic. Please refer our ‘Weekly Summaries’ article on our blog for an in depth write up on making Weekly Summaries.

Understanding:

This is a tricky part of learning. There is a fine line between knowing facts about a topic and understanding the topic in depth. This is the distinction which UPSC makes and what it tests for. There are a few methods you can use to test your knowledge.

  1. Test taking: this is a time tested method. At the end of every day prepare a test that you can answer during your weekly summary sessions. You can use this to gauge your understanding of a topic at the end of the week. Depending on your scores, you can allocate some time to go back and review the topic.
  2. Deep Processing: This is a process that you can initiate by considering its implications and significance, comparing it to what you already know, synthesizing and digesting it, and sharing it with others.
  3. Think-Pair-Share: For this activity you would need a partner who is also as passionate about learning for UPSC as you are. Together, you can pre-study a few topics and spend your time quizzing each other. This in a effective method of study for two people who want to deep dive into a topic.

So this was a breakdown of the ways in which you cold rebrand your learning. This simply the first step in a series of ways you could build your abilities as an aspirant. We hope this helps further your understanding of the ways to learn. We hope this was a fruitful use of your time.

 

Published by

Officers IAS Academy

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